Representations of Disability in Young Adult Literature
Why write a book examining representations of disability in young adult (YA) literature? To answer that question, I start with the premise that the status quo is not acceptable. All sorts of barriers prevent people from living their lives to the fullest, including how forces in society make them feel about themselves. Many of these forces are hidden from the very people (including myself) who participate, perhaps obliviously, in maintaining these forces: harmful assumptions about race, class, gender, age, income level, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and disability. While assumptions about all these groups should be named and challenged, the last one listed—disability—is perhaps the one least likely to be examined from a critical perspective, at least regarding YA literature. Many barriers contributing to disability are material or attitudinal; either way, they are built. They are constructed. And whatever is constructed can be named, mitigated, or removed.
Fiction can affect the way real people are treated. It can open readers’ minds to entrenched discriminatory attitudes, or it can be complicit with those attitudes, making them worse. The “disabling characters” in the title of this book has a double meaning. It refers to two types of characters who have the power to affect beliefs: one for good and one for ill: ← 1 | 2 →
1) Some characters are “disabling” in a good way because they challenge or “disable” myths about disability, and what happens to those characters can help draw attention to constructed barriers to real...
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